Bulldogs bully Flames

16 second-chance UNCA points hurt the team

A second chance, that is what the UNC Asheville Bulldogs’ theme song was during their game against the Liberty Flames Saturday night. Asheville stayed aggressive on the offensive end with second chance points deciding the victory.

Late push — David Minaya (14) led Flames with eight second-half points. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

Toning it down

Asheville, who is used to playing an up-tempo style of basketball, was forced to play a half-court game. Liberty’s effectiveness in transition defense forced the Bulldogs to shoot a low percentage from the field. However, the Flames were no different as both teams shot under 40 percent in the first half.

Forward Antwan Burrus was key in slowing down the pace with four blocks throughout the game.

“Asheville doesn’t like to play a slower game. They get out and run, and for the most part we were able to stop that,” guard Jesse Sanders said.

The Bulldogs did a decent job in defending Jesse Sanders, negating his ability to score and get others involved. Sanders finished with only four points, six assists, six rebounds and four personal fouls.

John Caleb Sanders had nine first half points off the bench, including a three, late in the first half that tied the game 22-22.

A half of slumps and spurts

With 15:56 to go in the second half, the Flames took a three-point lead (33-30). After a Tomasz Gielo three from the top of the key, the Flames took a timeout.

This was the beginning of a six-minute drought for the Flames. The Bulldogs scored at every opportunity, being aggressive on the offensive end, grabbing offensive rebounds over the bigger Flames players. This was the beginning of a 13-2 run (43-35).

“They got on a big run, they hit some hard shots, and we gave them the tempo and rhythm,” J.C. Sanders said.

Liberty, who normally out-rebounds their opponents, found themselves being out-rebounded 47-31. The Bulldogs also had 16 offensive rebounds that led to 16 second chance points.

“We got punked,” J. C. Sanders said. “They’re not even a big team. We had the biggest players out on the floor most of the game. They out-worked us on the glass tonight.”

“We didn’t make enough stops. We played good defense, we made them attempt tough shots, but we didn’t finish the plays with rebounds,” head coach Dale Layer said.

The Flames attempted to charge back, showing spurts of life. David Minaya, who finished with 13 points, had eight of them in the second half. J.C. Sanders also scored six points in the second that gave him a game high of 15 points.

Shooting 50 percent from the field in the second half and with four players in double-figures, the Bulldogs were able to pull out a 65-51 victory at the Vines Center.

“They find ways to win games. If they aren’t making shots, they go out and get them. They don’t beat themselves. That’s a mark of a well coached and experienced team,” Layer said.

With two upcoming road games, the Flames look to push forward against Charleston Southern and Presbyterian.

“There have been a lot of positives. The defense stepped up and this was one of the best defensive nights we had all year, especially against a team like Asheville,” Jesse Sanders said. “Getting the win against Gardner-Webb was key. It was the first home game with the students back and gave some positive energy to the student body. We hope we didn’t lose the students tonight but are looking forward to two big games on the road.”

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